Hernando De Soto was one of the earliest European explorers of North America. His expedition landed on Florida’s west coast in 1539, and he led his men on a five-year, 4,000-mile odyssey across the Southeast into what is now Arkansas. The park preserves tales of the expedition, along with historic armor, weapons, and other period items. Visitors can also experience four distinct ecosystems along the park's half-mile nature trail on the south shore of the Manatee River at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

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